New iOS 15.4 software allows Kiwis to unlock iPhones with Face ID while wearing a mask

The controversial new 'pregnant man' emoji is also now available.
The controversial new 'pregnant man' emoji is also now available. Photo credit: Getty Images

Apple has released iOS 15.4, the latest version of its iPhone operating system, with a brand new feature that could help many New Zealanders.

Amid the ongoing Omicron outbreak of COVID-19 in Aotearoa, mask wearing is still a big part of everyday life, but can be a problem for those who use Face ID to unlock their phones.

The new version of software allows users to set up Face ID to recognise you while wearing a mask for the first time, meaning those with iPhones 12 or later models won't need to remove it to access things like the NZ Covid Tracer and Apple Pay.

The feature needs to be set up after installation of the software update. Because it uses a smaller portion of your face, the angle you hold your phone at has to be slightly more precise than normal and faces need rescanned.

The company had previously introduced an option to allow those with an Apple Watch to authenticate Face ID while wearing a mask, but that didn't allow access to app logins or Apple Pay.

iOS 15.4 and iPadOS 15.4 also saw the first wide release of Universal Control, which allows iPads and other Apple devices to be used as a second screen, although not on the iPhone itself.

The feature is now in beta after first being announced last year during the company's Worldwide Developers Conference.

To use Universal Control, both devices must be signed into iCloud with the same Apple ID, the Cupertino-based company said.

"To use wirelessly, both devices must have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Handoff turned on and must be within 10m of each other. To use over USB, you must trust your Mac on the iPad."

One of the other changes was the bolstering of protection against the use of AirTags for stalking purposes, which has been a concern since they were introduced in 2021. When an AirTag is registered, owners are now told that using it to track people without their consent is a crime in many regions around the world.

"This item is designed to be detected by victims and to enable law enforcement to request identifying information about the owner."

iOS 15.4 also saw the launch of controversial new emojis, like the pregnant man.

When the first beta of iOS 15.4 was launched earlier this year Concerned Women for America, the self-styled "nation's largest public policy women's organisation", was outraged.

"Follow the science, it is literally impossible for a man to be pregnant. Stop your emoji madness," it wrote on social media.

"Instead, can we celebrate the uniqueness of men and women? God's grand design is beautiful!"

Fox News' Tucker Carlson also ridiculed the emoji.

Jane Solomon, Emojipedia's senior emoji lexicographer, said the emoji was to make the emoji keyboard "more consistent and gender inclusive".

"The new pregnancy options may be used for representation by trans men, non-binary people, or women with short hair - though, of course, use of these emojis is not limited to these groups," she wrote at the time it was first announced.

How to check if you're running the latest version of iOS on your iPhone:

  • Select 'Settings', 'General' and then 'Software Update'
  • You will be prompted to download and install the latest version if it hasn't been done automatically.